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The Tiger in the Smoke (Albert Campion Mysteries) Paperback – December 24, 2016
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"Margery Allingham stands out like a shining light. And she has another quality, not usually associated with crime stories, elegance" Agatha Christie
"My very favourite of the four Queens of Crime is Allingham" J. K. Rowling
"Always of the elect, Margery Allingham now towers above them" - The Observer
About the Author
- Item Weight : 13.3 ounces
- ISBN-13 : 978-1911295211
- Paperback : 296 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1911295217
- Publisher : Ipso Books (December 24, 2016)
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.74 x 8.5 inches
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #334,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I think of Allingham books as skillful constructions--she is as much an architect as a writer. Clearly, the structure is in place, and she introduces us to it in her own characteristic fashion: word by word, phrase by phrase as she builds her edifice before our wondering eyes.. We meet memorable characters masterfully sketched in indelible lines with a few sentences. We encounter exquisite descriptive passages that are poetic in their deliberate beauty.
Along with the breathtaking beauty of the words, we meet a tale of great and overarching evil met by goodness, even Godliness, of equal measure. The London fog (the "smoke") is an important character--the swirling grey mists permeate nearly every scene. The villain of the piece--the “Tiger”-- is a man whose worst qualities are only too apparent to Oates, although Luke, the lead investigator of the piece, does not fully appreciate what his superior officer is telling him about the character known as “Havoc.” But Campion knows.
It seems to me that Allingham has exceeded her own high level of achievement in this tale. Here is dramatically portrayed an epic battle between the forces of good and evil--magnificent, spell-binding, and relentless. The “evil” here is the character known as Havoc, while the “good” is the Canon Avril. The story comes full circle in the climactic scene between Havoc and Avril, and ultimately resolves in an extraordinary way. It is a terrible, but ultimately satisfying, story.
Albert Campion, who is Allingham's series detective is less visible in this book than he is Allingham's other books, but he is present, along with a number of other familiar characters.
For some reason, I’d gotten away from the Golden Age and lately have been reading Victorian and modern mysteries. But “Tiger” is one of the books on HRF Keating’s list of 100 best mysteries that I hadn’t read so when a friend pointed out this kindle book for $2.99 I picked it up. A few pages into “The Tiger in the Smoke”, I remembered why Golden Age was my genre of preference. Most of what I’ve read over the past couple of years pales in comparison.
First of all the “cozy mystery thriller” label on this is completely misleading. Undoubtedly, some Golden Age mysteries, especially some from Christie and Heyer, qualify as cozies but “Tiger” is very atmospheric with tension that can be oppressive at times. It also had more (off stage) violence and threat of violence than is common in a “cozy”. Like most Golden Age mysteries it is filled with interesting, quirky characters and a bizarre seemingly senseless little puzzle that is actually complex and gradually revealed. If anything it reminded much more of John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson than a cozy. Like Carr, this story does not focus on Campion (in fact he is not the driving force in the story) but is told from the varying perspectives of different characters.
Allingham does create some very ornate prose which some modern readers may not enjoy. It wasn’t constant but it was noticeable. An example: “Some resourceful policeman had unearthed one of the old naphtha flares which are the only real answer to fog. Like a livid plume, it spat and hissed above the heads of a knot of men in the chasm, its vigorous smoke trail mingling with the other vapours, making Rembrandtesque clouds above them.”
“The Tiger in the Smoke” is a nice Golden Age mystery that I enjoyed a lot. I’m looking forward to another Allingham on Keating’s list “More Work for the Undertaker”.
Top reviews from other countries
Here of course we have Albert Campion, who is usually regarded as a parody of Dorothy L Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey, but unlike Wimsey, Campion developed over the novels, so here we have someone who is mature, knows to a great extent what he is doing, and although taking risks is prepared to think of others and obviate certain dangers where he can. This particular novel has many fans and it is easy to see why, as there is a good although at times complex plot, and everything comes together quite neatly and precisely by the end.
We thus start off with a Meg Elginbrodde arriving at a station to meet what could be her husband, who has been presumed dead after missing in action during the War. At the station are also Campion and policeman Charles Luke, who suspect a blackmail scam. Meg is set to remarry, but if her first husband is still alive, or the idea that he could be, then there will obviously be a certain amount of trouble. And so, opening with a good incident so the story is off to a well-paced opening, with the pace never slowing down throughout. With abduction, murders and other criminal activities this is a story that can still grip you and make it hard for you to put down and is well thought out.
This book works on many levels, because there are obviously the crimes, which although at times brutal are not gone into full detail by the author, and there are fully formed characters, including London which can be seen as a character in its own right. The thick fogs and the lives of different people come to life here as we follow different strands of the story. We have a violent escaped convict, a musical band of veterans, a moneylender and so on, all giving depth to this tale and adding their own elements as gradually the ultimate criminal plan is revealed to us. We also here have an advantage over the police and Campion as we know what is happening before they do.
With realistic psychology to characters so we also see what can be seen on a higher level as a fight between good and evil making this more sophisticated and literary than your usual crime tale. One thing I have always enjoyed about this book is that it brings the London of the recently ended war back to life, and the police do not have all the advantages that they nowadays have, and of course a story that takes place before everyone had a mobile phone.
Many will have read this before, but if you are coming to this for the first time you can only appreciate what a great writer Margery Allingham was when she was on top form.
The central character, and chief villain, believes himself predestined for success. He calls his predestination the 'Science of Luck' - a science to be carefully studied and followed.There can be no 'going soft' - glory will result only from the 'hard' actions of treachery and betrayal to his friends, allies and benefactors after using them to further his self-interest. If this sounds a little like the way a successful politician operates I'm sure that is Ms Allingham's intention. Jack Havoc adds ruthless cold-blooded murder to his repertoire of activity in his pursuit of his 'Luck'.
Havoc's murderous nature makes him a public enemy desperately sought by the Met and Albert Campion.
That's the story. Can Havoc be apprehended before he kills again in pursuit of his destiny? Can he be stopped before he reaches his goal - an ineffable fabled treasure trove whose contents are a mystery?
Havoc won't admit it but he's made a 'devil's bargain' and without wishing to spoil the plot we all know how that sort of deal turns out... dust and ashes, pain and suffering, gnashing of teeth in the dark void beyond redemption.
Detecting occurs in this novel, it's full of suspense, surprises and excitement. It has moments when the experienced 'who-dunnitter' can make an attempt to second-guess the author and unravell the plot before its finale.
But at its heart it is a 'state of the nation' novel. Ruthless hard-headed and destructive pursuit of an empty dream against the continuum of a peaceful well-ordered and caring society.
Havoc is purposely named - he is an agent of chaos...
Featuring the inimitable Charlie Luke, some definitely strange criminals and a marvellous clergyman this is an entertaining mystery story with some nail biting moments when it looks as though no one is going to get out of the mess alive. Many of the interactions between the characters have much more depth than can usually be expected from crime novels.
Margery Allingham was writing when English detective fiction was in its heyday - the Golden Age of crime fiction - and the story has stood the test of time. It portrays an era when principles were important in everyday life and people tried to live up to certain standards. If you like your crime fiction in the classic mould then try Margery Allingham's Campion stories.